Community, Activists, Legislators, and Advocates Mobilize at the California State Capitol Calling for Support for Health Equity and Racial Justice Package

Author Details

The California Pan-Ethnic Health Network
For Immediate Release
May 3, 2023
Contact: Ronald Coleman, (916) 475-7156

Sacramento, CA – Over 100 community leaders, held a rally at the California State Capitol on May 3, 2023 to call for support on key bills and budget investments to advance health equity and racial justice. The event was led by the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN), a statewide multicultural health advocacy network, and the Having Our Say Coalition of community-based organizations.

“California’s communities of color continue to face significant health disparities that have been exacerbated by COVID-19. The state legislature and Governor Gavin Newsom can and must do more this year to reduce long-standing disparities, and work towards significantly improving health outcomes,” said Kiran Sangwan-Savage, Executive Director, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network.

The Health Equity and Racial Justice Package recognizes that inequities in health outcomes are the result of both access to health care and adverse community conditions. Community members and legislators called for support on enhancing Covered California affordability subsidies for people who can’t afford to access health care, food security for all Californians regardless of immigration status, and also requiring community screenings for the impacts of social determinants of health to better target resources and services to those in need. The package also seeks to uncover and document health disparities in populations that have often been made invisible by disaggregating data for Latinx and indigenous communities. Finally, the package recognizes that solutions to longstanding inequities will be driven by impacted communities. Community members and legislations call for the passage of the Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund, a proposal to create a grant program to establish a community-based public health infrastructure focused on addressing social determinants of health and racial equity.

Here’s what legislators and advocates are saying about the Health Equity and Racial Justice Package:

Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund

Asm. Joaquin Arambula, Chair Asm. Budget Committee, Sub 1, on the Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund:

“It cannot be overstated how vital it is to establish the California Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund. Our community-based groups and tribal organizations are the trusted messengers who best know how to help our most vulnerable communities with a broad range of issues, including access to health care. The fund would help close the gap on the inequities that still exist, giving all Californians the ability to pursue a better life for themselves and their families.”

Ronald Coleman Baeza, Managing Policy Director, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network:

“Racism has surely played a role in impacting people’s health as institutional and systemic racism have directly impacted access to housing, education, jobs; which are all linked to access to health care”, said Ronald Coleman Baeza. “Racism has directly impacted the physical health and well being of countless Californians, and the Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund takes a step towards investing in community led projects focused on improving health outcomes and furthering racial justice.”

Screening for Impacts of Social Determinants of Health

Assemblymember Akilah Weber, M.D., author, AB 85:

“In order to achieve health equity and optimal health outcomes it is critical to identify, and address social determinants of health for individuals and families. AB 85 would ensure health teams have the resources to conduct social determinants of health screenings, referrals, and community navigation services,” commented Assemblymember Akilah Weber, M.D. (D-LaMesa).

Rhonda Smith, Executive Director of the California Black Health Network:

“We know that health really happens outside the four walls of any clinic or healthcare center, and that about 80% of what contributes to health outcomes is related to social and economic factors, the physical environment, and health behaviors. So, AB 85 (Weber) would address these critical factors, improve access to basic needs, and build a stronger bridge between health and community. When we address and mitigate structural barriers to achieving optimal health for our community, then we will see better outcomes. As co-sponsor of AB 85, we thank Dr. Weber for her leadership as the author of this bill to address the non-medical needs of the community that play a critical role in closing the gap in health disparities,” said Rhonda Smith, Executive Director, California Black Health Network.

Enhanced Data Collection for Latinx and Indigenous Communities

Senator Lena Gonzalez, author, SB 435 to Enhance Data Collection for Latinx and Indigenous Communities:

“SB 435 is key in closing the health equity gap that exists within and Indigenous Mesoamerican communities in California,” said Senator Lena Gonzalez (D – Long Beach). Puerto Rican families in our state suffer some of the highest rates of asthma, and during the Latino COVID-19 pandemic Indigenous families—who speak more than 560 Indigenous languages—suffered disproportionately high death rates due to a lack of access to timely, reliable information on vaccines. This legislation will help end these health disparities by ensuring that our state collects data that reflects the diversity of various subgroups within Latino populations and can actively address each group’s needs.”

Mar Velez, Policy Director, Latino Coalition For A Healthy California (LCHC):

“SB 435 provides the first step in truly addressing the health disparities within Latinxs and Indigenous Mesoamericans. By collecting and disaggregating granular level data for Latinxs and Indigenous Mesoamericans, California can identify significant disparities impacting the largest ethnic population – Latinxs – in the state in addition to recognizing the specific needs of Indigenous Mesoamericans. Latinxs are multi-racial, multi-ethnic and do not live single-issue lives – and yet Latinidad is not all encompassing. Indigenous Mesoamericans have unique cultural and linguistic diversity that California must uplift. Data is a matter of health equity. Data is a matter of racial justice – and SB 435 will ensure quality, anonymous and comprehensive data for a better California.” – Mar Velez, Policy Director, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California.

Access to Food Assistance Regardless of Immigration Status

Senator Melissa Hurtado, Senate author, SB 245, Food4All:

“Hunger knows no border, no race and no nationality,” said Senator Hurtado. “It is unacceptable that 2 in 5 undocumented immigrants and nearly two-thirds of undocumented children live in a food insecure household. I am proud that last year we were able to combat this insecurity by expanding access to food assistance to older Californians, regardless of their immigration status. But the fight isn’t over–we must continue until all Californians have equal access to food assistance.”- Senator Melissa Hurtado, 16th Senate District

Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, Assembly author, AB 311, Food4All:

“As the 4th largest economy in the world, we cannot let anyone starve,” said Assembly Member Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles). “All Californians deserve access to food and no one deserves to go hungry, regardless of immigration status. This is about justice, health equity and fairness and we must continue until we have food for all.”

Betzabel Estudillo, Director of Engagement, Nourish California, Co-Sponsor on Food4All:

“California immigrants and their families struggled with accessing food with 45% of undocumented Californians currently affected by food insecurity. Yet, they remain unjustly excluded from food benefit programs like CalFresh and the California Food Assistance Program. SB 245 and AB 311 “Food4All” ensures equitable access to our state food safety net by providing food benefits to all California immigrants with low income, regardless of their immigration status. When every Californian, no matter their age or immigration status, has access to the food they need, California can be a more resilient, thriving state” said Betzabel Estudillo, Director of Engagement, Nourish California.

Benyamin Chao, Health & Public Benefits Policy Manager at the California Immigrant Policy Center, Co-Sponsor on Food4All:

“In California, we’re still excluding people from access to basic social safety nets due solely to their immigration status. Most Californians want to extend access to everyone, no matter their status or country of origin. We cannot allow immigrant children and families to go hungry because of discriminatory laws. That is why today we are working together to ensure that our state leaders prioritize policies like Food4All and ensure that everyone who calls California home can live a healthy life,” Benyamin Chao, Health & Public Benefits Policy Manager at the California Immigrant Policy Center.

Covered California Affordability Assistance

Assemblymember Pilar Shiavo, author, AB 1208, Enhancing Covered California Affordability: “AB 1208 will ensure the state makes good on its commitments to provide affordable health care for those who are too often paying for insurance they can’t afford to use. This bill aims to eliminate deductibles and dramatically reduce copays so Covered California patients are never forced to skip care due to costs. Removing these cost barriers means more people can seek out care without having to choose between healthcare or paying for gas, rent, or balance their family budget.”